Creativity Bytes: A Brief Guide To Light Painting
Here’s a quick reference guide that will seek to explain the trends, terms, and movements of the brave new media world of art and technology. So you can skim, digest, and be a pseudo-expert next time you’re cornered at a Speed Show exhibition in your local cybercafe. Because, hey, life is short and art long. This week: Light painting.
So, what is light painting?
It’s a form of photography that uses a long-exposure and a light source to create ghostly, illuminated pictures. Using a tripod, or at least a surface that’s stable, you open the camera shutter for a significant amount of time (20-30 seconds) while moving a light about in front of it. Close the shutter and you have a light painting. Other methods include having the light source off camera while using it to color the scene, or using the camera as a brush and moving it around to create motion within the frame. The idea of light painting is not new, but the advent of digital cameras has seen its popularity rise as you can now look at your work immediately, discarding it if it’s the sort of thing that’ll bring shame upon your family.
Where did it come from?
The idea of capturing trails of light on a camera was used by Frank Gilbreth and his wife in 1914 when they used light to study the motion of office and factory workers. But it wasn’t until 1935 that it was first used artistically by the avant-garde artist Man Ray, who used a penlight and camera to experiment with the technique in a series called Space Writings. Photographer Gjon Mili elaborated on this by introducing photoflash techniques as a way to capture motion and in 1949 photographed Pablo Picasso for Life magazine, resulting in the now famous images of Picasso light painting, including the celebrated Picasso Draws a Centaur. And now, in the 21st century, our machine underlings have got in on the act, with tablets and smartphones being used to create light trails, too.
Man Ray experimenting in 1935
This week you’re really digging…
Twin Cities Brightest’s intricate, multi-colored, and kaleidoscopic light paintings. His incredible light track photo Subnormal Numbers is above. Along with Jeremy Jackson’s (aka Tackyman) steel wool light mask series.
You could remark that you were producing light painting photos back in your youth, but a blurred shot of the local firework display zig-zagging in the distance like a neon snail trail does not a light painting make. Light painting is sculpting using the momentary, ethereal nature of electromagnetic radiation. If you want to learn more, Light Painting Photography is a good online resource for everything illuminated. And there are plenty of examples on Flickr. Plus, we featured a lo-fi guide on how to get started.
Describe yourself as…
Exhibiting properties of both waves and particles.
A tackyman in a tacky land
Light, photography, painting, exposure, camera, sketch, shutter, speed, tripod, flash.
186,000 miles per second.
390 to 750 nanometres.
Light painting with an iPad by BERG
Lighting the trip fantastic.
It is to capture a universal constant while bending it to your will.
Next week: Bio-art